Rush - R40 Live
On November 20, 2015, "Rush" released their "Swan song", their "final chord". A triple and Live album and DVD Which sums up the band's career over its forty years and is called "R40 Live".
At the end of the tour that accompanied the album "Clockwork Angels", the band's drummer Neil Peart expressed before his friends his desire to retire from live performances. The problem of tendinitis that afflicted him and the heavy load on his body made him fear that it would impair his level of playing. As is well known, the band's performances lasted about 3 hours and included a complex and massive drumming that weighed heavily on the body of a Peart who was 63 years old at the time.
His friend's guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist and singer Geddy Lee had one last request, to embark on one final grandiose tour. Alex mentioned in detail the arthritis he suffers from which may also affect his playing, and begged for a final round. Peart agreed but on the condition that it will be limited to a small tour and restricted to North America only.
This agreement between the band members spawned its latest tour which included only 35 shows. The setlist was composed by the "Fantastic Three" knowing that this was probably going to be their last tour, so it included songs from all the band's eras, with the band returning in a reverse chronologically while playing songs from all their albums, beginning with "Clockwork Angels" to songs from the first album and then to 16 bars from the song "Garden Road" that the band recorded even before the release of their first album.
During the performance, the entire set and setting change and also go back in time, with stage workers spinning throughout the performance on stage, assembling and disassembling amplifiers and instruments to suit the spirit of the period of the song being played. At the end of the show, the set includes only two guitar amplifiers placed on chairs with microphones aimed at them, just like at the beginning, at the school basements of Villodale, Ontario.
After the release of the live album and the DVD simultaneously, our friend Moshon Bash wrote a comprehensive review of the album. This review, written after the release of the album and before the death of Neil Peart, is presented to you here in its entirety as originally written.
In May 2015 the veteran "Rush" band began a short tour that focused more on North America.
The band decided to film their 2 performances in Toronto, their hometown, which took place on June 17, and 19 of that year, to issue a new DVD (hereafter R40) - a very important event for all band lovers and especially for 2 main reasons - one, marking 40 years since its inception. Second, this is probably the last tour of the band. (Drummer Neil Peart's tendon problem as well as guitarist Alex Lifeson's arthritis have made headlines over the past year, and in fact, Peart recently announced the culmination of his musical work and a final and gradual retirement that is expected to happen right now).
Not to mention the troubled voice of the band's lead singer/bassist Geddy Lee who has been eroded slowly from one tour to another, if we compare to the DVD from last decade (hereafter R30) and its predecessor "Rush in Rio" (where Lee's vocals sounded much more refreshing and young) - then probably age does its thing.
In light of the above, this is indeed the last chance for all the band lovers (and all those in particular who actually got to be there at one of the shows out of this tour), to have a decent taste of this band in action when it comes to its live performances.
The band built the course of the show by deciding to start the song sequence with their latest album "Clockwork Angels" from 2012 and thus slowly descend in reverse chronological order with stops at important musical time stations in the band's career, during which the band's instruments (including the giant drum set) change on stage In the same old models that the members played in the relevant periods, until their first album somewhere in 1974. A kind of progressive journey into the past.
It is not easy to put a career of over 40 years and 20 albums into a performance of fewer than 3 hours. Thus, some of the band's albums from their less important years did not get to enter the interesting musical journey (which contains several particularly interesting surprises), which I will discuss below:
The DVD begins with a cartoon, a cute video that shows the band members at different times during their career with short excerpts from the band's songs that appear in chronological order of the years they came out.
The end of the video leads to the lifting of the stage curtains with the band already opening the show in the background with the heavy "The Anarchist" and "Headlong Flight" from the latest album. A bit too noisy to start a show with 2 such heavy songs but considering that this is "Rush" that has chosen the order of the songs - we trust that they know what they are doing.
The next song on the DVD is "How It Is" from "Vapor Trails", their 2002 comeback album released after a 5-year hiatus, due to personal tragedies in Peart's life. I should note that this is a song I never knew and it was actually nice to discover a light and cute rock song like this.
A few more songs in the "time tunnel", including the great "Between The Wheels" from the eighties, and then for the first surprise of the evening: a live performance for the first time ever of the excellent and underrated piece "Losing it" from the great album from 1982, "Signals" (the band never performed This track live, not even in the tour that accompanied the release of the aforementioned album).
The song is about a dancer whose whole body hurts and can not continue to dance, and about a writer who begins the process of dementia and the words do not flow to the page as they once did. Peart in his wit writing concludes that even though you "lost it" and you are not the great artist you once were, it may be sad to see your abilities fade, but it is still better to fully experience everything you have lived. "Sadder still to watch it die than never to have known it" (which takes on a completely different meaning in light of Neil Peart's tendonitis who agreed to Alex and Geddy's last request to go on one last grandiose tour, which as mentioned at Peart's request was limited to north America only) Special thanks to David Bar-Tal from the Facebook page Face/Off for enlightening my eyes on this matter.
Before performing the song, Geddy Lee introduced Ben Mink to the audience - the one who was behind the violin playing in the song on the original album. nothing to say!! It was great and exciting to see the band together with Mink perform this piece together. (Although the current performance which just did not quite reach the perfect tightening level as originally - nevertheless, it was a good performance and a pleasure to hear this track today in a live version).
"Subdivisions" from the same album (always sounds great on gigs and the band never gives it up on their setlists), symbolizes the end of the first part of the DVD. In this part of the show, there was a short break before the start of the second set.
In this part which is the highlight of "R40" (in light of the bombastic list of songs in this set), the band chose not to miss out on any album they created during the important and classic years 1974-1981. After the opening video of the second set, the stage curtains come up with the band starting to play "Tom Sawyer" in the background, followed by "YYZ". Two prog bombs from "Moving Pictures" from 1981. The band never gives up on these 2 pieces in their performances. Neil Peart said a few years ago in an interview that to this day for him "Tom Sawyer" is a very difficult song to play and after he finishes playing it in live performances, he feels great satisfaction ... (I wonder how he felt drumming the song on the current tour with his tendon problem in the background).
Immediately after the timeless and bouncy "The Spirit of Radio" comes the classic "Natural Science". One of the band's finest pieces if not among their best in my opinion, and also a track that always gets a decent and adrenaline-filled live version. (The above songs are taken from "Permanent Waves", their classic album from 1980 and one of the best they have ever created).
Now Geddy Lee presents the next song that the band is going to perform from the same album: "A song rarely played ... This is a classic" "Jacob's Ladder". Amazingly the song has not been performed since 1980 and is a real prog-rock gem of the band. Peart somehow tried to keep up with the studio version, but it came out a bit of an abstract rather than a tightened version like the original.
However, definitely an important and very enjoyable moment in the show.
A few seconds of silence and we continue with the grandiose opening of the piece "Hemispheres" from their classic album from 1978, bearing the same name.
Another surprise after "Jacob's ..." because the last time the band performed this opening was over 20 years ago. Geddy's voice does not allow him to reach the same heights in certain parts of the song - for example in the phrase "Every soul is a battlefield" (but it's okay because even in their 1994 tour, the last time the band played this piece, Geddy gave up trying to reach To the original height in the above track).
After the opening of "Hemispheres", the bells herald the beginning of a familiar sound, and then Geddy begins to play the classic and tricky bass riff that opens the "Cygnus X-1" (and in Hebrew "swan"). This is where the band's tribute to their 1977 album, "A Farewell to Kings" actually begins.
The band continues to jam on the classic piece that suddenly stops and moves to an exhausting drum solo by Neil Peart.
The end of the solo leads us in a smooth and perfect transition to the last part of the "Swan" song. This part of the song is also performed here for the first time since the early eighties, the last time the band performed the entire piece live...
Immediately after a light break with the beautiful "Closer to the Heart" and perhaps the band's most mainstream song, we turn to the piece "Xanadu" which for the first time since the early 1980s is fully performed in this show, which is yet another surprise in our "advanced backward" journey.
You cannot end such a comprehensive performance without returning to "2112" (the concept album from 1976). As with every tour of the band, even in the current round Rush did not abandon the tribute to the parts "Overture / The Temples of Syrinx" from the main work. Geddy and Alex are even seen mimicking the standing of the "Star Man", (the iconic logo that is one of the symbols of the band and of the aforementioned album) just before the famous opening chord.
For the first time since 1997, the band performed the piece in full in live, we get to hear other important tastings from the piece (in fact the piece here is played almost in full), and immediately after the band finishes playing "Temples", Neil signals to his friends when to start playing and suddenly the band enters The power into the rock section from "Discovery" which is immediately followed by the band moving on to episode two "Presentation" (the episodes are played one after the other just like in the original order on the album). The band decided to end the "presentation" with a sharp jump into the last part of the musical piece, which is the "Grand Finale" (this part of the work has also been performed live on previous tours of the band).
After the trio "Have assumed control ..", the members get off the stage, and after a short comedic video in which the actor Eugene Levy appears, the stage curtains come up for the last time, with the drum opening of Zeppelinish "Lakeside Park" in the background (from "Caress Of Steel" from 1975,) who opens up the encore dedicated to the band's first three albums (from the end to the beginning). "Lakeside" connects with "Anthem" (the opening track from the second album "Fly By Night" from that year).
The track "What You're Doing", a fun and amusing rock song that connects to the heavy "Working Man" which gets a slightly abbreviated version here (both from the debut album "Rush" from 1974), closes "R40".
Geddy Lee thanks the audience for the last time and adds: "..we hope maybe one day we will meet again": From my acquaintance with previous performances of the band, in the end, he has never used these words, which definitely implies along with a slight sadness about the end of an era ..
After a short farewell video from the band featuring excerpts from the end moments of Rush's performances throughout the years with pictures of the band parting and Geddy saying thank you at the end of each show with the cheers of the audience accompanying them over the years, the thought remains whether this was really the last time? Or maybe and just maybe there is a small chance anyway that "Rush" will surprise us in a few years with a show like this ...
This is a great performance with half of the setlist built only from old materials from the band's golden age (hereafter the classic period 1974-1981). Not to say it was not a walk in the park for 62-year-old Geddy Lee to return slowly in the time tunnel, 40 years back with stops at relevant time stations while having to adjust his voice to each period (and the classical period in particular where screams took a major part) and at least try to give a decent performance that will cover up his aging voice.
Neil Peart did not exactly demonstrate the feeling of lightness that we are used to seeing and hearing in the band's performances, but please do not be mistaken !!! This is an excellent drummer who, despite the tendon problem, managed to catch up and be true to the original versions almost throughout the entire performance. I was a bit lacking in hearing the sound of his high-pitched tam-tams (the same sound familiar for example from classical drumming transitions in tracks such as "YYZ" and "2112"). My personal feeling is that he puts on special skins that produce a slightly different sound from those high-pitched tam-tams we are used to hearing, to help dampen shocks to his hands and thus make it easier for him to play in light of his problem.
In conclusion, no real fan would want to miss this DVD. "R40" is a nostalgic progressive experience that tries to sum up 40 years of "Rush" on one stage in just 3 hours. Of course, there are plenty of other classics of the band left out of the setlist, because it is impossible to give it all in a performance of a little less than 3 hours. Do not forget that this is also a setlist with many classics surpassing previous videos of the band. (We would not expect at least that on the occasion of the double event of 40 years and a farewell tour...).
It is likely that if the band still decides to return to activity (which at the moment does not seem at all on the horizon) then in ten years we will also have an R50 - and another fun experience but also the performance level will be much lower (not to mention vocal performance), so sometimes it's really better to retire When they still at their top and the band can give a live performance at a sufficient and respectable level.
"Rush" did it definitely. With an extensive activity of over 40 years with 20 studio albums behind them and many tours attracting both old and new audiences who are just thirsty to hear his idols and experience all this energy erupting on stage, they no longer have to prove anything ....
Moshon Bash - 2015